Keeping past titles active can be confusing at the least. The way titles are treated in the USA is very different than in Thailand. To use a past tense title in a present tense situation can leave people who don’t understand with confusion at worst and a headache at best.
In the USA people with past titles display them differently than Thailand. For example if a person comes up through the ranks of the military, they give up their previous rank for the new rank. Lieutenant Captain Major Colonel General John Doe would be cause to seek psychiatric help trying to figure out why the old titles are not tossed.
If they leave the military they may add the suffix retired like ‘Retired General John Doe’. This indicates that they are no longer active in the service however they wish to have the name recognition associated with being a General. To still call him General formally would be a bit confusing and may lead to legal problems along the lines of impersonation. This certainly is true if a retired police officer is still called Officer as there is such laws for impersonation of a police officer.
There is one exception in the military that is more a matter of pride. There is no such creature as a former Marine. Simply once a Marine, always a Marine. However it is rarely spoken outside of the military as it is pride.
In Thailand it is much different. There is a mandatory retirement age for officers, however seemingly after they are retired the Rank seems to follow. There are several versions of why this is and it is anyone’s guess if any of them are supported with fact. Also the fact that previous titles seem to tag along for the ride even when the new title has much higher status.
This is particularly seen in high government positions or positions of honor. It is not uncommon to have a Prime Minister still use his military rank in part of his name / title. When that happens it certainly leaves one wondering if it is a civilian or military government.
In the case of General Prem Tinsulanonda who is Privy Counsel President and the chief advisor of the King of Thailand, Bhumibol Adulyadej it can be even more confusing. To be a member of the Privy counsel is one of the highest honors in Thai society. To be president of that counsel, one has to wonder why the title General is still there. Add to that Prem Tinsulanonda will be 88 in August clearly says he is well past the retirement age. To someone from the USA this can cause total confusion and not even consider the Title General (much less not retired) weight the logic of there being such a huge difference in status of Privy Counsel President. A person from the USA would only see the highest title and ignore the rest and would be perfectly justified in doing so as that is what was taught. To someone from the USA he would simply be seen as Privy Counsel President Prem Tinsulanonda.
This does offer a unique perspective of the different culture and perspectives and one should not be held accountable for not understanding as it could lead to another unnecessary headache. A Thai will wonder why the American titles are dropped and an American wonder why the Thai titles remain.